Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

The Threepenny Opera

This is something I urge you to see! Unfortunately it is not coming to London but what a good reason to get out of the smog and hustle and bustle.

Having seen the preview in Nottingham before the show officially opened yesterday at the Nottingham Playhouse, I feel it would be unfair to ‘review’ at this point, plus it would appear I haven’t posted a blog for many moons so I guess I’m a bit rusty… Time to clear the dust off my blogging contraption though methinks!

So, to impart a few of my thoughts on you if I may.

One thing I have discovered about my personal enjoyment as an audience member over the past year is I love theatre that challenges me and possibly poses me with something controversial, however, I despise being told how I should be feeling about it and forcing me on a pre-planned journey with compulsory stops and only one choice of destination. Instead let me form my own response, taking a scenic detour if I wish and please respect that as valid.

Approximately 5 minutes before entering the auditorium I started to consider what I had touched upon in my theatre training regarding Brecht and quickly realised it was even dustier than my steam powered blogging contraption… Something about audience alienation?… Was I expected to be well versed on academic theories? Some time ago I saw a Becket play, honestly I didn’t love it but in the bar afterwards I felt an immense pressure that if I could not quote a paper on the style and intentions on the playwright I should leave immediately so as not to embarrass myself. Whilst theatre studies has it’s place in the world I believe the only thing audience members should bring to the theatre is their life experience (plus a bit of cash for a programme and an ice cream).

I am pleased to report that although this play is only a newborn I felt the story and performers pull and push me away, supplying me with a banquet of ideas but giving me space and freedom to feast as I wished; as an individual. I may be wrong but I think this was Brecht’s aim, but I didn’t need to know this. I didn’t need to be a ‘Brechtian’ I could just be me.

There were two aspects to this production which I simply adored; the timelessness feel, for me the story was set in the past, the present and the future all at the same time and bouncing around time periods very cleverly displayed history repeating itself. Secondly, as with every Graeae production the inclusion of BSL provides a vital and dynamic layer to the performance, the translation of the songs was engrossingly adventurous.

I’m not going to give any more of the game away, you’ll just have to go and experience it for yourselves. If you want to know more here are a couple of useful links:

http://www.graeae.org/productions/the-threepenny-opera/

http://www.theguardian.com

Press night is tonight so keep your eyes out on your social media platform of choice for official reviews soon.

4Play 2013 Deafinitely Theatre

This year’s 4Play by Deafinitely Theatre – an initiative which supports deaf writers, was hosted at the newly opened Park Theatre. So newly opened in fact, they were literally putting up the front door and frantically posting up “wet paint” signs as I arrived. Nevertheless, the theatre was welcoming and the performance space intimately gorgeous with the auditorium seating 200 people. I sat perched in the circle with fantastic sight lines, even for a little’un like me.

Having attended last year (4Play 2012) I came with a few expectations of form, content and style. However, new writing opens up for infinite possibilities so the anticipation of what was about to commence was filled with intrigue.

Buddha Knows by Aliya Gulamani and directed by Deafinitely Theatre’s artistic director Paula Garfield was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. A highly relevant piece of societal perspective with moments of comic relief, just as you thought you knew where the story was headed Aliya took you in the other direction. Performers Brian Duffy and David Sands had wonderful on stage chemistry whilst Charlotte Arrowsmith delivered a beautifully truthful performance drawing the audience into her character’s desperate desire to have a baby.

Mine was next up, written by Limping Chicken’s very own Charlie Swinbourne and directed by Jeni Draper. (Charlie’s blog) Now, I don’t often cry at the theatre but this piece moved me so much I was on the edge of my seat, holding back tears. Mine cleverly portrayed many complexities through a simple script. Whilst much of the signed dialogue had a recorded voice over to enable access for the audience, there were choice moments where beautiful storytelling through BSL was left in it’s purity. This was wonderfully delivered by Jean St Clair who played the protagonist Annie. The lack of explicitness contributed to the powerful impact of the piece; the strong subtext, the conversations not had, the things that make us human and unite us all.

After the interval (which was much needed to recover from the emotional rollercoaster), Lianne Herbert made her second appearance at 4Play after showcasing her first short play last year Twentyfourseven. The Door was directed by Ramesh Meyyappan and the character of The Girl performed by Lina Kankeviciute. The play consisted of no dialogue but a montage of scenes which could have been repeated forever to show the girl’s endless entrapment inside a locked room. The performance exhibited Lina’s command of physical theatre skills as she allowed the audience to see into the mind and memories of her character.

The last piece of the evening was En-Route, written by the familiar face to Deafinitely Theatre; Matthew Gurney and directed by Daryl Jackson. The comical but endearing story that saw an unlikely friendship formed between an old man and a Libyan backpacker without a passport. With deafness in common but still a language barrier the highly visual communication was perfectly placed upon the stage. They say a picture paints a thousand words, if that is the case then visual vernacular paints at least 2,000! But no words were needed.

A truly enjoyable evening where physicality, visual vernacular and BSL triumphed over spoken English. I am certainly looking forward to 4Play 2014.

4Play 2013 was at The Park Theatre, London 1st – 4th May

Relaxed Performances and Audience Integration

Being an active supporter of Disability Arts, whilst I have seen lots of disabled and learning disabled performers on stage, I have not often had a conscious awareness of being part of an integrated audience. This got me to thinking about the so-called “relaxed” and “autism friendly”  performances which are becoming increasingly more popular, and why would they not with the horrible stories we hear via word of mouth, the press and the ever influential uncensored social media posts. There are accounts of families being told to leave the theatre because their learning disabled child is being too disruptive, as well as occurrences where a physically disabled audience member is moved or even evicted on the grounds that his condition may upset and offend others. (A couple of documented examples can be read here and here.) A wheelchair user once told me how he phoned to book a ticket to the theatre and required a wheelchair space, in response he was bombarded with a series of personal questions including if he smelled; and they were not referring to his ability of the sense. No wonder the craving for a safe space to watch live performances is so huge! Unfortunately as can sometimes happen with access, this causes an element if segregation. It was once mentioned to me that why can’t all performances be “relaxed” and those die hard, middle-class theatre goers so deeply rooted in tradition can book separate performances (maybe occuring once in a run) to watch their theatre in still silence barring a patter of laughter and a light applause upon conclusion.

So what does being an audience member mean? I must admit to having once been a traditionalist, I would glare at anyone who so much as hinted at opening a bag of crisps mid performance. In my days of child acting and youth theatre I was taught that the theatre building should be treated with the same respect as a place of worship and being a good audience member meant sitting quietly, watching and listening whilst forming thoughts and opinions to discuss at the end.

Recently, however I was made aware that I was part of an integrated audience. This realisation occurred because of one small but hugely impacting reaction. Sitting in the auditorium of a performance created by a disability led company, a learning disabled audience member started to make a vocal noise, I didn’t think anything of it until they were promptly hushed by a non disabled person. As theatre is designed to make us think, form opinions and then hopefully share them with others, what is so terrible about an immediate reaction? Perhaps this could somehow be taken further and opportunities to outlet and engage creatively can be embedded within the experience. Theatres are now introducing “tweet seats” to enable theatre goers to comment throughout performances and whilst this concept is relatively new, Twitter is not the only medium through which audiences can respond, an area certainly worth exploring, especially considering access.

I hope relaxed performances continue to flourish. It is vital they are of a high standard – there is a substantial difference between engaging physically/vocally and being bored/disinterested. The type of venue will also impact significantly, whilst we work on exploring the audience’s role in traditional theatres, live performance outside these venues with less stigma have the freedom to be more relaxed more of the time, I hope they relish this opportunity.

Post Paralympics – Are Attitudes Changing?

Today I read an article in The Stage where make-up artist Amber Sibley was quoted:

“The Paralympic Opening Ceremony was joyful, working with a less-abled cast and seeing everyone’s inner beauty shine.” full article
Whilst to some this may at first glance seem like a positive comment, to me it encapsulates my disappointment following the attitude after the staging of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.

For me the Paralympic Opening Ceremony was one of the most exciting things to happen in 2012. Leading up to the event I knew it was not “a miracle cure” in response to disability awareness but I was sure that using the world stage to showcase the talent of some deaf and disabled performers would create a change in attitude to those in the Arts sector.

I’m not trying to single Sibley out here but, there still seems to be a feeling of “ didn’t they do well despite…”

So the niggling question is why?

Recently I attended a skill sharing and networking event linking to the Arts and disability.When talking about the use of sign language within performance I made reference to the signed performances in the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. To my surprise and horror less than half of the participants had watched it and one or two even gave me a look as if to say “big deal, why was it so important?”

*Lies down*

So is this what actually happened? Did the nation let this monumental event pass them by with a vague acknowledgement of “disabled people performing, oh how lovely, good for them”.

Well it wasn’t lovely, it was blooming fantastic with a bit of “oi oi!” thrown in for good measure! Who cares about “inner beauty” shining. If people could have engaged with the spectacle for what it really was we’d all appreciate the talent and the exciting creative opportunities out there.

Tanika’s Journey – Deafinitely Theatre

Picture from Deafinitely Theatre’s Facebook page

Ever since enjoying Deafinitely Theatre’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost involving their use of visual signed language I have been eagerly anticipating this performance and was hoping for more of the same, I was not disappointed. Before attending a show I prefer to remain uninfluenced and have avoided reading reviews and the comments rapidly spreading on the social networks. Considering the buzz around Tanika’s Journey, it has not been easy!

It was my first time attending Southwark Playhouse so I had the glorious advantage of enjoying this unique space as a blank canvas, not imposing any previous ‘ghosts’, memories or feelings ‘The Vault’ may contain. My journey from the cosy bar to the performance space mimicked that of stepping through the wardrobe to Narnia. I was immediately immersed into a world, somewhere far away, I carefully trod through snow, pushing bare tree branches aside in a quest to find my seat. Whilst convention often dictates I should passively sit and fulfill my role as a ‘good’ audience member, a feeling in my belly told me otherwise, I cast my eyes across at the rows of audience sat opposite. Some were chatting in hushed tones, some were signing and some were just sat, but I sensed we were each pieces in a snow globe waiting to be shaken up at any second.

The performance began and I was plunged in to the harsh weather conditions of a Ukrainian forest. Southwark Playhouse was warm but I found myself tugging at my sleeves of my jumper and popping my coat across my knees. As the story unfolded I laughed, cried a little and smiled a soft, heartfelt smile. Now, I could dissect why this performance had this emotional impact on me. For one, the acting was excellent, the set, sound and lighting remarkably clever. Ultimately what made this performance great was simply beautiful storytelling.

How key storytelling is to great theatre and Deafinitely Theatre certainly did a fantastic job of it!
Now off to finally read those reviews.

Tanika’s Journey is on at Southwark Playhouse until the 20th October 2012. For more info visit Deafinitely Theatre’s website here.

Encouraging Individuality in Young Deaf People Through Inclusion

Last week I saw an excellent BSL interpreted performance of Billy Elliot.

“If you wanna be a dancer, dance
If you wanna be a miner, mine
If you want to dress like somebody else,
Fine, fine, fine.

Everyone is different
It’s the natural state
It’s the facts, it’s plain to see,
The world’s grey enough without making it worse
What we need is in-div-id-ual-ity.”

From a brilliant number called “Expressing Yourself”, the lyrics got me thinking about access and the barriers faced by young deaf people.

In the audience of this accessible performance were groups of young deaf people from a variety of schools, colleges and organisations across London. The surprising thing was, most of these young people had NEVER attended the theatre before! OK, I am admittedly a total theatre nut but I do understand (well, sort of) that a lovey thespian life is not for everyone. However, cultural activities such as going to the theatre should be made accessible for all, so young people can try them at least once regardless of background, deafness or disability.

A deaf and hearing integrated company called Handprint Theatre in collaboration with Mousetrap ran workshops at the Victoria Palace Theatre prior to the afternoon performance to prepare young deaf people for their first theatre experience. First, a tour of the stage, set and props was given and there was the opportunity to ask questions, then Handprint lead workshops focusing on the themes of Billy Elliot and encouraging the young people to perform to each other. It was wonderful to see such engagement and the response from one individual who expressed his newfound interest to explore a career as a performer.

Theatre is not the centrepiece of cultural experience (sometimes I may need reminding of this). Young people should be exposed to a variety of activities and be encouraged to make an informed choice of their interests, otherwise how can we expect them to grow into well rounded individuals? I direct you again to the lyrics of “Expressing Yourself”.

The Limping Chicken recently posted about how deaf children are being turned away from swimming clubs and lessons as they are seen as a health and safety hazard. Ludicrous! To me the health and safety risk is having a population of deaf people in the UK who can’t swim. We can’t all be amazing swimmers, as a child a quickly gave up swimming lessons to join a youth theatre group but only after I had got the basics and earned a few badges. As a child, this was my choice but thankfully I did not have access barriers to contend with.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and the NDCS have stepped in to assist swimming coaches to be inclusive through providing advice, resources and teaching a few signs to assist communication.

The NDCS are a great charity and provide so many options and experiences for children and young people. If you have a deaf child, I’d really recommend having a good look at the activities and events that they offer.

The work being done to provide access and create inclusion for deaf children and young people is invaluable. It will encourage independence, creativity and confidence in the next generation. Oh and most importantly, individuality. “The world’s grey enough without making it worse…

Aaaand jazz hands!

TAEDS Silver Anniversary Celebrations

Friday 22nd June 2012 saw the celebration of a course that has been running for over a quarter of a century. TAEDS; for those that aren’t aware, stands for Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies and is a three year degree course that began its life as a 1 year certificate training deaf actors under the title Theatre of the Deaf.

The course’s heritage was reflected in the evening’s entertainment. Ex-TAEDS regrouped at the new facilities on London Road, Reading to meet, perform and share. An eye-opening timeline emerged as  Ian Chandler took us back to the 1960’s, describing his work as an actor in Pat Keysell’s Theatre of the Deaf. The contrast of performances from the current first year students followed, in the form of signed poetry and song.

Ian Chandler performing the poem Fern Hill written by Dylan Thomas

Ian Chandler performing the poem Fern Hill written by Dylan Thomas

First Year Performance

First Year Performance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other performances contributing to the “cabaret style” evening were presented by the wonderful integrated theatre company Handprint who gave an excerpt of their children’s show Soapy Sam.

Soapy Sam

I was thrilled to see an excerpt of this show for the first time.

Once the crowd were suitably warmed up it was time for the “adult entertainment” to begin. Deaf duo, Roger and Ruth performed 3 comical signed songs; Kylie and Jason eat your heart out! Siobhan Dodd wrote a piece especially for the event; “SSE the Musical” which I have to say is crazier than a bowl of fruit loops but also absolute genius! I shan’t give too much away as I’ll be encouraging her to develop this work and bring it to new audiences.

SSE The Musical

“SSE the Musical” coming soon to a Deaf club near you?

The final climax of the evening was “The Angry Vangina Monologues” performed by a certain deaf West-end star who showcased without a shadow of a doubt the visuality of BSL. By the end of the performances I was worn out through a combination of emotion and side-splitting laughter, however, many partied on until the early hours of the morning.

A great evening was had by all, and whilst I loved the performances which were of an exceptionally high standard, what really stuck in my mind was the general atmosphere of the evening.

Recently, I have been considering the word “community” and how it relates to my own life. I think it’s quite easy to go through life and not feel part of a community. In terms of location a courteous “good morning” to my neighbours does nothing to suggest unity and with regards to my work I am sometimes very aware that I am neither deaf or disabled. I have no religion or diverse cultural background to share with others. However, at this celebration event, it dawned on me. This was my community, the TAEDS community. TAEDS, due to its broad teachings has influence in many areas of theatre, education and deafness across the UK and beyond. For a small course of approximately 25 graduates per year, you may be surprised how many of us are actually out there covering a diversity of professions but with one commonality, TAEDS. I have come to realise how uniquely special that is, there is no deaf and hearing divide. Even those who haven’t signed since graduating knew how to communicate in an inclusive way with an apparent knowledge of deaf awareness. There is no right or wrong career choice after graduating, after three immersive years the world is your oyster.

At the Silver Anniversary celebrations I met new faces and treated them as old friends, I reunited with old friends as if no time had passed. I hugged, conversed, laughed and cheered more than I have done in a long time.

Simon FloodgateA big thank you to course director Simon Floodgate for believing in us all as individuals and getting us together as a collective to celebrate our roots and give a very important sense of community.

 

Access and Inclusion in Creative Industries – It’s About Being CREATIVE

Recently I read an interesting article in The Stage. The article reports about access concerns after the production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Apollo failed to offer Audio Description. The individual matter has now been settled.

Hemley, M. 2012. Setting Sights on Access Issues. The Stage, May 31. Page 5

Before I continue, can I apologise in advance for any excess in sarcasm (language that may cause offense have been replaced by the decisions of a random word generator, just to keep things clean). It just astounds me that in a CREATIVE industry there is so much stigma around disabled audiences.

In an industry that has responded to the recession’s cuts with (a little weep, a bit of a strop and then) the attitude “if any industry can survive this, the creative and Arts industry can!” Coping with disabled audiences is just too much to handle.

I was quite surprised that such a well known London theatre such as The Apollo was criticised for access so I checked out it’s website. To my astonishment there is no designated page for access, all I could find was this hidden at the bottom of the ticket page:

Click to enlarge image

Whilst a “tailored to the individual” service is offered, I sense an undertone of unwelcomeness and exclusion that points a very large finger to insufficient disability awareness. The short message appears to be addressed to the carer/PA rather than the disabled theatre goer, filled with patronisation it could have just said

“If you want to do a good deed and take a disabled person on a little outing, we’ll try and accommodate you.”

Although with the proposed changes to the DLA, independent living for people with disabilities may be a rarity. It might just be that they are ahead of the times.

Perhaps a Deaf club want to arrange an excursion? Well those using hearing aids wishing to gain access a Loop system will have to form an orderly queue as an undefined number are available on a first come first served basis at the box office.

Click to enlarge image.

What The Stage article does very well is highlight the 2010 Equality Act. I was always unsure whether it was the role of the company/producer or venue who shouldered the responsibility. I’m sure we’ve all seen the phrases “reasonable adjustments” and “service provider” countless times. Hemley’s article in interview with VocalEyes executive director Judy Dixey makes it very apparent that the definition of these is as clear as mud. I’ve never been one with the ability to decipher legal jargon but with an Act this vague it begs the question “why bother”. Oh yes, I forgot, boxes need ticking.

It all just seems a case of passing the buck and making excuses and with no real legal cases against theatres to use as a benchmark the Equality Act is, in this case, essentially worthless.

Perhaps arts venues and companies believe there is no need for access. The assumption of “disabled people wouldn’t want to see this so we won’t make it accessible” should NEVER be made. The theatre world is always banging on about reaching a wider, more diverse audience. Why would a blind person go to the theatre? Why would a deaf person go to the opera? Why would an OAP person go to a Nicki Minaj concert? And why would a young person learn to play bowls? Who knows and quite frankly who cares! Yes a target audience is quite essential when creating a show, but ultimately you are creating a show for AN AUDIENCE and you should welcome anyone who buys a ticket. Denying a “category” of people just seems outrageous.

This is where we arrive at “what is a reasonable adjustment?” Well according to theatres and all involved an adjustment is: something that costs a fortune. So as far as they are concerned none are reasonable. If a company/venue is not providing access, they can also argue that due to few or no provisions being used there is no need for them to provide access.

Of course, if you don’t provide access, you won’t get an audience using accessible provisions. This seems obvious but it doesn’t mean people with disabilities don’t want to experience theatre, they just don’t want to experience the hassle and barunduki that goes with it.

That is not the way providing reasonable adjustments should work. I don’t imagine that one day a wheelchair user flung himself down a flight of steps to the cries of “oh pediculati, maybe we should build a ramp before the bodies pile up”. Although, maybe this is exactly what happened. In which case… it’s probably best I leave that there.

Why does access and inclusion have this stigma? we are in a creative industry for scfh sake, be oxylebiusy creative! One company said they use understudies to audio describe. Fantastic! What a start! Hopefully they can progress to getting some AD training and collect feedback from audiences to progress their access. Where’s the huge cost in that?

If anyone has had a go at audio describing, you’ll know it’s not the easiest thing to do. I did a performance a couple of months ago where I had to audio describe 3 signs. It took me a while to grasp, and I tried it out on some kind visually impaired volunteers to test my accuracy. So throwing an unprepared actor into the role, no matter how well s/he knows the show is not ideal. I once went to a performance with really terrible live audio description that was full of “umms” and “errs” it was so uncomfortable, let alone confusing to listen to.

However, an actor will presumably have good voice skills to provide clear communication, they also know the show well. In addition they could sit with the audience in costume. (closing your eyes does not give an accurate experience of visual impairment, people!)

In conclusion, actors providing audio description: Pros, cons, contradictions but the start of a great idea.

In terms of cost, Dixey states in The Stage that their service will cost the producer around £1,200 which includes a touch tour, AD and a CD featuring programme notes and cast information and this should be in the budget from the start and not an optional extra.

In my opinion, what needs to change is the attitude. At the moment everyone seems to fear disabled people as they bring trouble, cost and doom. What needs to be appreciated is that they are a paying audience member attending for the theatre experience. Once companies and venues get over this I believe more will be done to create an inclusive experience, as essentially that is what theatre is. It’s not just about the show, there is so much more. A touch tour doesn’t need to require a person guiding a visually impaired person around the stage whilst the cast are trying to do their warm up. Scraps of materials left over from costume and set making can be provided in the foyer or at the box office to give a visually impaired person an idea of materials. Costly? I don’t think so.

Well, there we have it; anger, sarcasm, frustration and ramblings. However, I still have hope for those working in creative industries that are still ignorant to access/inclusion. It’s just about… well… being creative.

FaceTweet it!

Love Labour’s Lost

The Globe to Globe project sees the theatre staging 37 plays in 37 languages. Many cultures have been brought to The Globe Theatre to celebrate the World Shakespeare Festival 2012.

Personally, I love The Globe and I love Shakespeare. I also happen to love Sign Language so it was with utter excitement and delight that I attended Deafinitely Theatre’s production of Love Labour’s Lost.

Picture by Simon Annand via Facebook

Let me cut to the chase and say the performance was fabulous. I have never quite considered a relationship between BSL and the Bard but after having experienced a pure signed performance I can confidently say they are a potential match made in heaven.

A focus of the festival, which was highlighted by Deafinitely’s performance, was on language, in this case BSL. Sign Language was king, without the stigma of “impairment”, it did not matter if the actors were deaf, HoH or hearing, it was the language that was central to the show. The audience response strongly echoed this as tweets came flooding in such as

Hurruh to those who came with no knowledge of BSL and left with an appreciation for the richness of the language.

The cast were brilliant! It’s impossible to pick out any one exceptional performance as they were all of equal calibre.

David Sands got to do what he does best and engage with the audience in a highly energetic performance as Costard the fool. The King of Navarre was played with wonderful honesty by Stephen Collins. The Lords played by Matthew Gurney and Vitalis Katakinas had impressive energy (and equally impressive beards!) The Princess of France (Nadia Nadarajah) and her Ladies (Charlotte Arrowsmith, Donna Mullings and Patsy Palmer) portrayed the strong female characters with buckets of playfullness and sass. Brian Duffy played Boyet with fantastic physicality and Adam Bassett as Don Armado the Spaniard ended the performance with a signed poem that truly blew me away. Well done to all! A special mention must also go to the musicians who provided an aural background whilst offering comical engagement with the actors.

The translation from Shakespeare’s text to Sign was expertly done and the deaf cast performed so visually and made excellent use of the unique space that is the Globe Theatre. (A personal highlight being The King exiting the sage to the yard and crying on the shoulder of my friend’s sister.)

Picture by Simon Annand via Facebook

Ever since I was a young whippersnapper of a ‘BSL for Beginners’ student I have loved watching signed stories and found myself mesmerised by how visually descriptive BSL can be. Recently I found out about Visual Vernacular (VV) and it’s influence was clearly represented in the performance of Love Labour’s Lost. Shakespeare’s use of descriptive language made for a wonderfully visual performance that made BSL accessible to hearies (with the aid of surtitles).

The surtitled appeared on 2 screens and summarised the scene being performed in a sentence or a few words. The feedback I got from non BSL users was that they really got the gist of the storyline and I took pleasure in seeing hearing BSL students around the theatre who were clearly following the story and also picking up on some of the basic signs.

Whilst making BSL accessible to all was great, it was wonderful to see what felt like the entire Deaf Community in a packed house creating a buzzing atmosphere. Due to the nature of the theatre it was possible to sign a conversation across the Globe to a familiar face (another reason why Shakespeare and BSL are a perfect match). In my previous visits I have always enjoyed the atmosphere of being a groundling but this event without a doubt trumps them all.

Truly a historical event to remember!

Love Labour’s Lost is now embarking on their National tour, to ensure you don’t miss out check the dates and venues on Deafinitely’s website.

Signdance Theatre International’s New Gold – Review

I am and have always seemed to be a superstitious person. So to see the dreaded “Friday 13th” steadily approaching in my diary made me want to shut myself in my house and pursue very boring and non-dangerous activities such as completing a 1,000 piece puzzle. I certainly did not think I’d be heading to East Croydon to see a theatre form that has been quite alien to me.

I must admit, I hadn’t done my research as sorting the tickets last minute had left me little time. So I really did not know what to expect of the evening. As I entered the cosy confines of the studio theatre I eagerly anticipated what was in store.

It soon became apparent that New Gold is a piece inspired by the Olympics and Paralympics that will shortly be descending on London. It aims to challenge our values and discover where we lie our importance as it follows the characters’ search for gold. The bright colours and fun atmosphere from the start reminded me of a circus and as an intimately small audience we were interacted with directly and encouraged to applaud the 4 “contestants”. At times I did not fully understand why I was clapping but joined in the fun and enjoyed feeling like part of the show. I particularly liked the eccentric costumes and props used, a waistcoat and umbrella were decorated in silhouettes of relevant handshapes that were repeated in the piece through movement.

Originally, I perceived there to be four actors on stage. Three characters represented the countries; the attention seeking England, the Italian thief and a bizarre Cuban secretary with astonishing red shoes. In addition was the compere. This was until a pile of rubbish emerged as a man begging for money and proudly representing Wales.

The piece progressed as a high energy physical fusion of mime, dance, speech and sign which was fully committed to by the cast and provided funny moments and audience interaction. For me, it was educating to attend a different form of theatre, and accessible theatre at that. When I was a student I adored physical theatre, total theatre and all things a bit abstract. Regrettably, I have not exposed myself to much of that genre since. The inclusive access element of the piece provided an interesting mixture of sign translation by a character on stage, SSE and sign incorporated into dance. This gave the audience a range of communication methods to experience and highlighted awareness of the visual language of BSL. However, I would like to have seen more use of the screen that was used before and after the performance to show pictures and credits. It would have been ideal for some creative captioning to compliment the piece.

New Gold is directed by Goro Osojnik, written by Pedro De Senna and David Bower and designed by Christine Wilson.It will be premiering at the Warehouse Theatre before touring to Slovenia, USA and Paralympis Games Sites.

We were then shown a musical cabaret by the same company with live music provided by Dead Days Beyond Help. The piece was entitled Half a Penny.

I’m a big fan of song signing and enjoyed Signdance Theatre International’s interpretation which used the whole body and the whole stage and was captivating to watch. It integrated some humorous on stage interpreting for the spoken and text based elements. The use of a live band really added a dimension to the overall performance.

In addition to Signdance Theatre International’s performances, integrated deaf and hearing theatre company Handprint are performing children’s show Soapy Sam complete with accessible workshops.

Sam

I wanted to interview Sam about his stay at the Warehouse Theatre but unfortunately it was past his bedtime and he was asleep. You’ll have to catch him in the afternoon if you want to see him, which I strongly advise you do and take the whole family as the show is suitable for ages 3 and up.

 

 

 

 

New Gold will be running everyday at The Warehouse theatre (with the exception of Mondays) until Sunday 29th April.

Dates and times for Soapy Sam are as follows:

Saturday 21st April – 11am

Sunday 22nd April – 12.30pm (performance & workshop)

Friday 27th April  – 1pm

Saturday 28th April – 11am

Sunday 29th April  – 12.30pm (performance & workshop)


Please contact the theatre to book tickets.